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Tunisia and the OECD: Implementing reforms to join the Open Government Partnership

 

15 April 2013 was an important day in Tunisia and for its process to implement open government reforms to meet the Eligibility Criteria of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). For the first time, representatives from the public administration, civil society and the private sector met to inaugurate the activities of the new Tunisian Steering Committee on Open Government. The meeting* had three main objectives:  to commit to closer co-operation among all national stakeholders involved in open government reforms, to analyse Tunisia’s efforts to date, and finally to discuss the way forward for Tunisia in joining the Open Government Partnership.

The event allowed civil society organisations, such as OpenGov, members of the National Constituent Assembly, and all key public institutions to discuss Tunisia’s open government reform agenda and how to improve it in line with OECD principles and good practices. The discussions were lively and passionate, as these on-going reforms are at the heart of the issues raised by the Tunisian revolution and their attainment will be indicative of the degree of its success.

Tunisians also had the opportunity to learn more about similar initiatives in Egypt, Spain and Switzerland, as presented by the Peer Experts invited by the OECD to attend the Steering Committee meeting.  Linda Frey, Executive Director of the OGP Support Unit, clarified the accession process, the eligibility criteria and the next institutional events of the OGP community in which Tunisia could participate. The meeting ended with a discussion on how to best co-ordinate the drafting and the implementation of open government reforms at the national and local level in an inclusive way.

Subsequent meetings with a selection of the most relevant national stakeholders provided an excellent opportunity to better understand Tunisia’s on-going efforts in the areas related to open government reforms. It was impressive to see how many projects the Tunisian government is implementing in all major fields of democratic governance. The Action Plan for the Law on Access to Information and the new National Anti-corruption Strategy are just two of the several promising initiatives that will help to translate the principles of open government in concrete practices for the benefit of Tunisian citizens.

Meetings with Tunisia’s young, proactive and professional civil society were equally very inspirational and demonstrated the high level of social capital that the country can draw upon to strengthen its democracy. These enthusiastic and motivated citizens are actively contributing to the creation of a new Tunisia. There are many examples of this vitality, among them the non-governmental organisation IWatch is worth mentioning because of their recently held whistle-blower award and the platform they created to denounce cases of corruption. By implementing concrete projects, they are effectively influencing Tunisia’s reform agenda pushing the government to establish mechanisms to properly follow up on the reports and enact a whistle-blower protection law to safeguard the informants.

We noticed the same commitment and clear outlook from representatives of the private sector who are equally keen to seize the opportunity to engage in a greater policy dialogue with the government as offered by open government reforms, which will allow them to better transmit their priorities to relevant public officials. Among them, the need to develop Tunisia’s internal market was mentioned as fundamental in order to compensate for the fact that many companies rely mostly on foreign buyers.

Our mission ended with the clear impression that Tunisian citizens from the public administration, the private sector, and civil society are fully committed in working together to build a new, democratic, inclusive and open Tunisia. The challenge is to provide the necessary institutional and legal mechanisms and concrete opportunities for this collaboration to bear the expected fruits.

With the help of the Peer Experts, the OECD Secretariat will now consolidate and assess the data, information, and views gathered during the mission and will produce a final Review of Tunisia policies and practices in the area of Open Government. The Review will include in depth analyses and concrete recommendations for action based on OECD instruments, principles, and good practices. Through a series of technical workshops, the findings of the Review will be disseminated among Tunisia stakeholders (government, civil society, and private sector) and will contribute to the production of Tunisia’s OGP Action Plan.

Alessandro Bellantoni (alessandro.bellantoni@oecd.org) and Katharina Zuegel (katharina.zuegel@oecd.org), MENA-OECD Open Government Project

The MENA-OECD Open Government Project assists MENA countries to design and implement open government policies and join the Open Government Partnership. Within the framework of the MENA-OECD Governance Programme, the Project supports the identification and prioritization of reforms, align them with OECD instruments and good practices, and strengthen the capacities of national policy makers and practitioners to engage with civil society organizations and the private sector in the design and delivery of innovative public services.

*The meeting was facilitated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development within the framework of the MENA-OECD Open Government Project and was co-ordinated by the Ministry of Governance and Fight against Corruption.